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A group of youths work on a section of the Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Mai Mahiu which will be served by the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line. Works on the multi-million project are complete paving way for arrival of goods from the Port of Mombasa. [Anthony Gitonga]

The government has assured importers from neighbouring countries that they will not be forced to use the Nairobi-Naivasha Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

Transport Principal Secretary Esther Koimett said the government will instead create an environment that will encourage cargo owners to use the Naivasha Inland Container Depot (ICD) set to be commissioned on Tuesday by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Ms Koimett was responding to a customs official from Uganda who had accompanied the PS in a delegation that inspected the facility on Friday.

The official had complained about lack of information on the impending launch of the freight service from Nairobi to Naivasha.

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Koimett said they wanted to be responsive to customers so that they can choose to use it.

“Our intention is to make it attractive enough for customers,” she said.

Besides President Kenyatta, the flag-off of the freight service will be attended by a special envoy of the President of China as well as chairman of China Road and Bridge Corporation and contractors of the railway line.

Also to be unveiled on Tuesday will be a 1,000-acre industrial park, which the government hopes will attract enough industries to produce sufficient goods that can then be transported on the new railway line.

“This ICD is to serve cargo going west of Nairobi, but it is also possible that other business people may choose to come to this facility,” said Koimett, adding that the facility fit into the government’s infrastructure plan.

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The SGR, she said, is ultimately a regional project. “It is supposed to go all the way to Malaba through Kisumu,” she said.

So far the government has finished Phase One which is operational, from Mombasa to Nairobi and Phase 2A, from Nairobi to Naivasha. Other phases are 2B from Naivasha to Kisumu and 2C from Kisumu to Malaba.

“It was decided to do this in phases. For now the intention is to connect to the metre gauge and give the seamless connectivity to west of this area and then into the regional markets,” the PS said.

Acting Kenya Railways Managing Director Phillip Mainga said they will charge Sh60,600 for a 20-feet container while a 40-feet container will be charged Sh80,800.

He said operation of the railway will kick off immediately after the commissioning of the service.

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“The best thing about this is that transit cargo is actually cleared so it doesn’t require further clearance. So if we have cleared cargo coming here it will be just Kenya Ports Authority and Kenya Revenue Authority releasing them,” said Mr Mainga.

About 30 per cent of cargo that comes through the port of Mombasa is transit cargo.

The SGR runs from the port city through Nairobi to Naivasha, and was expected to continue to Malaba which borders Uganda.

Rehabilitate old line

However, it appears, at least for now, that the line from Naivasha to Kisumu and Malaba will not be SGR. Instead, the government is in talks with a private investor to rehabilitate the metre-gauge along these sections.

Uganda has also embarked on rehabilitating its metre gauge railway after it became apparent that funds from China were not forthcoming.

The ministry is in talks with private sector investors to rehabilitate the metre-gauge rail, noting that the line was in dire need of a spruce up.

The maintenance will involve replacement of the dented slippers and rail, as the government embarks on giving life to the 100-year railway.

“There is also a proposal that the government itself should make the investment, but the investment has to be made,” said Koimett.


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